One of the most common dental problems we see in our patients is gum disease. In most cases, gum disease develops slowly and without pain. Without regular dental checkups, it is possible to not really know how serious the disease is until your teeth and gums are severely damaged, resulting in teeth having to be extracted.
Gum disease affects people of all ages, not just the middle-aged or elderly.
The first stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis. The cause: poor oral hygiene that fails in removing the germs and bacteria that build up on the teeth every day. That’s why daily brushing and flossing are so important, as it helps remove this buildup.
Gums afflicted by gingivitis are often swollen, red and bleed easily. Remarkably there is often little pain or discomfort at this stage of the disease.
In addition to poor oral hygiene, factors that contribute to gingivitis include; smoking, stress, diabetes, aging, pregnancy, poor nutrition, hormonal fluctuations and certain medications.
If you’re told by your dentist that you have gingivitis, the good news is that it can be reversed with professional dental treatment and careful brushing and flossing by you at home.
The bad news, if untreated, gingivitis evolves into periodontitis, a much more serious form of gum disease.
Periodontitis is caused by a significant buildup of germs and bacteria which over time are not removed with daily brushing and flossing. Eventually, this plaque buildup turns into tartar. Plaque is hard and cannot be removed by brushing. Over time, the plaque and tartar spread below the gum line. There, sight unseen, bacteria produce toxins that irritate the gums. The toxins also cause inflammation and trigger the body’s immune system to turn on itself. The result, tissue and bone that hold teeth firmly in place are broken down and destroyed. Small pockets form as gums separate from teeth. These pockets in turn become infected resulting in more tissue and bone loss. As with gingivitis, there may be little or no pain or discomfort. Left untreated, teeth can become loose and may need to be removed. Serious gum disease results in losing teeth.
A 2010 study found that 47% of adults in the US suffer from mild to severe periodontitis. The numbers are similar in Canada.
There’s a good chance that if you haven’t been brushing and flossing regularly, you may have gingivitis or even periodontitis.
The Canadian Dental Association recommends that you Check Your Gums on a regular basis for gum disease.
- a change in the colour of your gums
- gums that are red around your teeth
- gums that bleed every time you brush or floss
- bad breath that will not go away
- a taste of metal in your mouth
- shiny, puffy or sore gums
- teeth that are sensitive for no reason
If you experience any of these symptoms, call to schedule a dental appointment. The good news is that proper dental treatment can help reverse the early stages of gum disease.
Every day, germs and bacteria build up on your teeth. We encourage you to brush and floss daily to remove the build-up of this invisible film that left untreated, over time will have a very negative impact on your dental health.